Newsletter #3 / January, 2009
SPEAKING: Let others hear you at your website.
If you’re a speaker, why not use about the freest tool around, a short spoken blurb on your website, either on the opening index page (though that might slow down the unfolding of that text) or, surely, at the speaking link page where you extol your declamatory talents?
There are two straightforward formats: one, a quick podcast (which needn’t be more than five sentences followed by a link that sells what you offer) or a short video where we can see and hear, again a pitch to something of greater length following—which may be a much longer video or podcast.
The logic here is so obvious I will summarize it: they want to see if you can speak, how you sound, and if your voice is painfully irritating or disconnected? (The same with your live image: can they endure looking at you for all that time?)
So, if it’s such a great idea and so obvious why don’t I have it at my website? I did, often, but I’m in the process of revamping my entire web structure—including sound and visuals. Check back in a month or so! In the meantime, check my NSA buddies’ videos at www.wmitchell.com or www.terrypaulson.com. Then ask yourself, if a programmer was planning to spend many thousands of dollars booking one of two choices, and one had a live voice (and a speaking image) and the other had only a still photo plus promises, which is most likely to be getting the moolah?
In the meantime, if you want more details about online video and improving your product selling ratio, let me suggest a dandy e-book that can be downloaded in a couple of minutes, and put in practice quickly. It’s John Moreau’s “Improving Conversion Rates on Landing Pages and Websites with Online Video: A Step-by-Step Guide” It’s hiding here.
In my next newsletter (2/1) let me share info about creating audio CDs, as I finish an e-book with lots of step-by-step details about that process.
PUBLISHING or PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: Do this before you write the first word of your self-published book or create your product…
For a book or web-related product, save the URL (the address page for a website on the Internet) in .com. In fact, save several URLs, if possible, pretty much in this order: (1) the book title, like www.mybooktitle.com; (2) your name, like mine at www.gordonburgett.com; (3) a subject title, like www.Edsfrogbreedingbook.com, and (4) misspellings of the book title or your name, to pick up eager buyers but poor spellers. The same if you have a specific product name. Do that NOW, or before you write the first word or draw the first design.
Grab them while they are available. You can get them for under $9 a year (try www.ultracheapdomains.com), and if you change your mind, change the book or product title, or a year passes and they are still unwritten projects, you needn’t renew them. Just compose a list of 20-30 different sites and see what’s already up and claimed. (I wouldn’t use .net, .org, or others—there’s simply too little commerce there. OK, I have www.nichepublishing.org. It was a weak moment, .com was snagged—and a huge exception.)
If the URL isn’t available, you might add a word, like “the,” before your key words (i.e., www.thecatcombercatalog.com), or “my”…, “a”…, “TomSmiths”…; or an adjective like “best” or “newest”; the word “finally” or something similar—or something to follow like “ishere” to www.bobsbook, before the .com. Don’t use hyphens. I did once and it was the loneliest website around. (You can try to buy the URL from its current user, but that usually is very expensive even if they are willing to sell it. You can find the site owners at www.whois.net. Or, if you believe in miracles, wait around until somebody lets it lapse after a year or two.)
Why do this? Because tons of people will go to your URLs to get more information. For books, they will want to see the covers, table of contents, benefits, testimonials, credentials, and a free sample chapter or two, plus—alarmingly—your photo and why you wrote it. Become web-centric. Make it the target of your promotion, write good sales copy, and be ready to take orders. If you have four or five URLs, you can have the same copy at each. And even if you don’t send anybody there, lots of hopeful readers will go there first anyway. Better they see your book or product than something else!
PUBLISHING: When your new ink-on-paper book arrives…
Set aside one edition, slap a huge MASTER COPY label on it, and in it, in red, note all of the errors, typos, phrases that could be improved, ideas that might be inserted, structural changes that subsequent editions need, and so on. Then, a couple of months before you sell the last of the first-run copies, make the changes and modest design switches in the second edition. Keep asking others how the book could be improved in the next printing. No book ever sees print life without a flaw, so the master copy lets you gather all of the improvements in one place when it’s time to upgrade the second-run manuscript. It also helps you get those flaws out of your mind while you bask in the miracle at hand—a book you actually wrote and produced.
(When I was half my age and even fuller of puff I self-published The Query Book, my first. Despite the fact it was ugly and too large, I was super proud that it had no errors in it. In a workshop months after its release someone asked me how they could be sure that their book had no errors in it. I explained about getting a proofreader, then added, “Of course you can always send a copy to your smartest cousin and tell her that you’ll pay her $1 for every legitimate error or typo she finds in your book.” Five days later I got a tongue-in-cheek letter from one of the attendees saying that, to her regret, she wasn’t my cousin [nor very smart] but if she were I would owe her $9. Then she listed nine errors in the book! Loose-lipped pride before the fall. I sent her a check for $6 and a blank certificate bestowing SMARTEST COUSINSHIP on her. Three of the “errors” were awkward synonyms that she shouldn’t have used, but the other six were indeed corrections, though none in spelling. Thus my master copies were born—and a pinch of humility was temporarily injected.)
Incidentally, if you are selling e-books and they are being digitally downloaded from your shopping cart system as they are bought, should errors be brought to your attention, you can correct the file immediately and repost it for delivery in its new format within minutes. Is all of this important? You bet. Experts are judged on every facet of their supposed expertise. It dims the light when others describe you as “pretty smart but can’t write (or spelle) worth a damn.” It’s an unneeded distraction that costs you in confidence and referrals.
WRITING: Two things to avoid.
Want to know two of the most common errors writers make when submitting articles (and books)? Both irk editors and are dead giveaways that the writer is an amateur.
(1) Overusing the semicolon. One semicolon in an article may be once too often, mostly because it is used incorrectly in place of a comma. My first rewrite editor said it best: "If you're writing for The New York Times, use it once. Otherwise, keep it for your novel." (But there is a necessary exception: when you are including a list that includes commas in the items or phrases listed. Each item [except the penultimate, which uses a comma] must be separated by a semicolon. A short example: The championship teams all had height, one with a center 7’1” tall; speed, and reliable floor generalship.)
(2) Then there’s the hyphen, as in sisters-in-law. When needed, use it—but not as a dash
(like you just saw after “it”). A dash should be an "em"
dash (see insert/symbol/special characters). Sometimes it appears when you hit
two hyphens (without a space in between). Sometimes you have to hit the enter
key after the two hyphens for it to convert. (And sometimes in blogs you have to use two consecutive hyphens to make a
dash.) Use dashes sparingly, but when you do, you usually need a pair of them,
before and after the parenthetical phrase it offsets. And when you use an
"em" dash you do not put a space before or
after it. (I know, you will see the spaces in some books, some newspapers, and
Is misusing them fatal? Not if the prose is stupendous; the editor will just change them in the final text. But you will still look like a beginner, and all of the facts and writing will be combed with a harder eye. Yet if you continue to misuse them after the editor has made the corrections…
(One more, at no charge: only use the ampersand (&) when it appears in the original reference, like in an English firm name such as Higgins & Bascom. It’s not a substitute for the word “and.”)
NEWSLETTER CHANGES: As I mentioned, I’m revamping my website, which in itself is both exciting and confusing. At the same time, I’m also changing my web server and switching my integrated marketing software in January, all to streamline the service and make it quicker, safer, and more linkable for you and me. (I’ll probably include the details in a later newsletter after I’m pleased that all works as promised! Stay tuned if you’re into net marketing.) I may slightly change the title then too. But at heart it’s still me, same purpose, and I’m just as eager to share both new and tested information about writing, speaking, publishing, and product development.